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Air Conditioner Filters – Penny Wise & Dollar Foolish

AC systems are designed to run with filters, but filters come in several grades.


If we really wanted to cool the home down quickly, we would use no filter at all, but then we’d have dust collecting on the evaporator coil and in the ducts.  Both of which are very expensive to have cleaned. If we didn’t ever want dust in the evaporator coil or in the ducts, we’d put a piece of plywood in the filter slot. But, now we cannot move any cool air out of the system and into the home. Your AC filter is somewhere between nothing and a sheet of plywood.

Cheap fiberglass filters (MERV 5 or less at $1 or $2 each) are very close to the “use no filter” example above. If you can see through them, they won’t do much. They do not stop much in the way of dust, hair, molds or pollens.  Most of that is going to end up in the system and have to be cleaned by a service technician. Cheap filters equals expensive maintenance. Washable filters tend to fall into this category as well.


Expensive allergy rated filters (MERV 10 and up at $10 to $40 each) are close to the “sheet of plywood” example. Yes, they trap mold and pollen, but they plug up quickly. Once they are plugged up, the system has to work much harder to move air through them.  When the AC system cannot move air like it was designed, the house does not cool as well and the system runs longer ($$). If you leave these in too long, you’ll actually see a good AC system physically deform the filter. It will come out all bowed up in the middle.  In Florida, most of this class of filter are full within a week, depending on the time of the year.  Very expensive to use, and actually hurts the performance of the AC system.


Most systems are designed to run with MERV 8 filters. These are the “middle of the road” filters. They are pleated paper and reinforced, generally in a cardboard frame. Typical prices are from $5 to $7 each.  I get mine in packs of 3, but there are also websites that you can order a dozen at time or others will send you a new one every month. Filters should be changed monthly. Don’t believe the “90 days” label. This is Florida and we are sub-tropical, meaning we have more stuff in our air than most other places. Change your filter monthly. Some do it on the 1st of the month, other change the filter when they get the electric bill.  It does not matter, when, just get a system and use it.


MERV 8 is the industry standard, but other filter manufacturers use different standards to measure their filter’s effectiveness.


8 1000 7/Red Dust, Pollen, Mold, Dust Mites, Lint, Bacteria
10 1900 9/ Purple Above +  Pet Dander
13 2200 10/Black Above + Virus Carrier, Odors, and Smoke, 


Roof Drains Done Wrong

One roof should never drain onto another roof. This will shorten the life of your shingles where the upper roof dumps water onto the lower roof.  Take this new home for example. The upper roof had gutters installed, but they dumped the downspouts onto the lower roof.  This took all of the water from the upper roof surface and concentrated it into a 4 inch wide pipe. Shingles were never designed to handle water volumes like that.

To make matters worse, at the other end of the home, the downspout flows water across the shingles. Shingles are not designed to be waterproof, but to shed water. Flowing large amounts of water sideways across the roof surface is inviting water to get under the shingles. Once that happens, it is not long before a leak will occur.

This was not a small home, but a large 5 bedroom home in a new subdivision.  I’ll say it again, if you are purchasing a home, new or old, you need a Licensed Home Inspector to go over the home with you.  It can save you much more than the cost of the inspection. Contact i-Inspect today for your home inspection needs.





Dryer Vents

Dryer vents are one of the leading causes of house fires.  If they are short through-wall vents, maintenance is fairly simple.  Slide the dryer out so you have room to work.  Disconnect the flex hose from the wall.  Slip a dryer duct brush through the duct and out the other end. This should be inspected annually and cleaned as necessary.


Dryer Vent

Dryer duct packed full of lint. Very little air can move through this duct.

If your duct runs up through the attic and out through the roof, you’ll probably need a professional to clean it.  These are even more troublesome as dryers are not built to move air through a long length of duct.

Plumbing Vent Boots

You see these on almost every roof.  They are the vent pipes that let the sewer drain pipes “breathe”.  Without vents, your drain pipes would not function properly.  Much like holding your finger over the top of a straw and finding out the liquid will not drain out of the straw, your drainage system needs to allow air in to allow liquids out.

Most of our vent drains have a lead boot covering them.  Something like this:


But if you have squirrels in your neighborhood, and they travel across your roof, they will often stop to gnaw on these lead vents.  Evidently, chewing on the lead feels good to them. The down side is that once they chew through the top of the boot, moisture (rain) can get into the home via the gap now in the system.  This water will drain down into a wall cavity where it and it’s associated damage are hidden from view.

Here we can see two examples of failed boots.  They both are allowing water into the walls of the home.



Leaking Mixing Valve

Here we have a video of a leaking mixing valve in a shower.  The valve is old even though the shower has just been retiled.  The flippers did not bother to update the plumbing while they had it exposed.

The valve is obviously leaking out of the front, but this sort of valve relies on o-rings to maintain the seal.  It could also be leaking out of the back as well, depending on how many o-rings are worn out.  If it is leaking out behind that trim pieces or the back of the valve, water is getting into the wall cavity behind the shower.  Water in a nice warm cavity with lots of wood will grow fungus and molds.  All that pretty new tile may have to come off to repair the damage.

The good news is that most leaky shower valves are repairable.  A good handyman or plumber should have the unit repaired so that water only comes out where it is supposed to.